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The best free transfers of all time as Kylian Mbappe joins Real Madrid

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Kylian Mbappe has signed for Real Madrid in what will surely go down as one of the biggest free transfers ever completed.

Los Blancos announced on Monday evening that the 25-year-old will officially move on a Bosman deal when his contract with Paris St. Germain expires on June 30.

PSG signed the French striker in 2018 for a whopping £163 million, making him the second most expensive player of all time behind Neymar (£198m).

Mbappe proceeded to score a club record 256 goals, but he will leave Les Parisiens for absolutely nothing, although reports suggest an exit deal has been agreed that will see some of his £150m signing-on fee go to PSG.

The 2018 World Cup winner is not the first big name to move on a Bosman – but will he be as successful as some of the best free transfers from down through the years?

Five of the best free transfers ever:

Sol Campbell

Arguably the most controversial transfer in Premier League history, Sol Campbell swapped Spurs for Arsenal on a free transfer in 2001.

At a time before social media and in-the-know transfer accounts, the Spurs captain was unveiled as the latest signing for the club’s north London rivals. Arsenal had beaten competition from Europe’s elite to land the England centre-back, who crossed the capital on a free transfer.

Off the pitch, Campbell faced severe backlash for his decision to join Spurs’ arch-rivals, but on it, he flourished to become an integral part of a formidable Arsenal side.

His debut season saw Arsenal win a Premier League and FA Cup double, forming an excellent axis alongside Martin Keown at centre-back, before adding another Premier League title and two FA Cups across his five seasons with the Gunners.

🎶 Double, double, double… Sol Campbell has won the double! 🎶

🎈 @SolManOfficial pic.twitter.com/d1WthDHRL1

— Arsenal (@Arsenal) September 18, 2020

The second of those Premier League titles was won without defeat in 2003/04, as Arsenal’s ‘Invincibles’ became one of the most celebrated teams in the division’s history. Campbell, a rock at the back, had cemented his place among the Premier League’s great central defenders.

Defensive Rocks: Sol Campbell – The immovable Invincible

Esteban Cambiasso

An underappreciated Esteban Cambiasso chose to leave Real Madrid in 2004, departing to sign for Inter Milan on a free transfer.

Unable to establish himself in the Madrid midfield, he soon became irreplaceable to Inter and was named the club’s Player of the Season in his debut campaign.

The combative Argentine spent a decade with the Nerazzurri and won five Scudetti among his honours, with the highlight of his time at the San Siro a Serie A, Coppa Italia and Champions League treble won under Jose Mourinho in 2009/10.

⚫️🔵 2010 champion Esteban Cambiasso could do it all 🔝#HBD | #UCL pic.twitter.com/CN7ztSOBjt

— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) August 18, 2022

Cambiasso made 431 appearances for Inter, scoring 41 goals, and was inducted into the Italian side’s Hall of Fame in 2020.

The midfielder made another free transfer when leaving Inter, signing for Leicester, and starred during the club’s ‘Great Escape’ from Premier League relegation in 2014/15. A cult figure, he earned the Foxes’ Player of the Season award after his sole season in English football.

Midfield Magicians: The cultured warrior Esteban Cambiasso

Andrea Pirlo

Andrea Pirlo’s free transfer move to Juventus often tops the thinking when remembering brilliant Bosmans, an unforgivable oversight from AC Milan which came back to haunt the Rossoneri.

The midfielder was allowed to leave for a direct rival after a decorated career at the San Siro, with Milan perhaps believing Pirlo’s powers were on the wane. Instead, the World Cup winner conducted Juventus’ return to the summit of Italian football, replacing Milan as champions, and kickstarted a run of unprecedented dominance for the Turin side.

In four seasons with Juventus, Pirlo won four consecutive league titles and was named Serie A Footballer of the Year in three of those triumphs.

Prime @Pirlo_official 🎯#GoalOfTheDay pic.twitter.com/wVQjdFYHR6

— JuventusFC 🇬🇧🇺🇸 (@juventusfcen) March 16, 2023

“When Andrea told me (in the summer) that he was joining us, the first thing I thought was ‘it could be worse’,” Teammate Gianluigi Buffon told Radio Monte Carlo shortly after the signing of the 32-year-old.

“A player of his level and ability, not to mention that he was free, I think was the signing of the century. I thought God exists because it’s truly embarrassing just how good he is.”

An example that class really is permanent.

Midfield Magicians: The Architect Andrea Pirlo

Paul Pogba

There can’t be many better examples of Bosman business than Juventus signing Paul Pogba. The Serie A side swooped in for the midfielder who had been frustrated with a lack of opportunity at Manchester United, securing a rough diamond on a free transfer and polishing it in Turin.

Pogba spent four seasons with the Bianconeri and evolved into one of world football’s most in-demand talents, earning the 2013 Golden Boy award as the best u-21 player in Europe during his debut season.

The Frenchman went on to win four consecutive league titles and earned three inclusions in the Serie A Team of the Year.

His exit brought in a world-record fee for Juventus, as Manchester United decided an error had been made and re-signed the midfielder for a staggering sum of £89m.

Five Championship players primed for Premier League transfers

Robert Lewandowski

Borussia Dortmund have seen several stars depart for Bayern Munich, but few will have been more painful than the free transfer move of Robert Lewandowski.

The Poland striker had emerged as one of Europe’s best goal-getters during four seasons at the Westfalenstadion, scoring over a century of goals and helping Dortmund to back-to-back Bundesliga crowns.

However, the behemoth from Bavaria continued to raid their divisional rivals for talent and snared the striker on a free transfer in 2014.

Lewandowski set records tumbling during a career of incredible success in Munich, where he scored 344 goals in 375 games. A joint-record seven-time winner of the Bundesliga’s top scorer award, only Gerd Muller has ever scored more goals in Germany’s top flight than Lewandowski.

Lewandowski, who won eight Bundesliga titles and the Champions League among his honours at the Allianz Arena, set a new record for a single season after scoring 41 goals in 29 league appearances in 2020/21.

Read – Sectarianism, betrayal and a pig’s head – The most controversial transfers in football history

See more – The five most expensive January transfers of all time

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